Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, 1968—The Pontiac GTO and the Ford Mustang were about to receive a wake-up call. Adorned with the familiar cartoon decal, Plymouth’s new release took to the streets, ready to explain its creative moniker and unseen capabilities. Plymouth took the outright awesome power of the very expensive GTX, threw in some clever marketing, removed most of the costly trim and high-end standard equipment and created a sure-fire formula for a successful and unbeatable car that became the icon of the muscle-car era. Equipped with a 383 cubic inch engine and four-speed gearbox, the 335-horsepower Plymouth sent the engineers of Ford and Pontiac
back to the drawing board in search of more ponies.

The Road Runner was an instant success and by the close of 1969 it had been named Motor Trend Magazine’s Car of the Year.

The convertible was first offered in 1969. The Road Runner droptop pictured here is finished in the factory color of Rallye Red and is equipped with the 383 cubic inch engine, manual four-speed gearbox, and an 8¾" Chrysler rear end. The interior is black vinyl and features optional bucket seats, center console with arm rests, black top and carpeting, back-up lights and power steering. It has an AM/FM radio and factory-ordered dashboard tachometer. It is also complete with a correct Carter four-barrel carburetor and has recently had a set of Magnum 500 wheels fitted to Widetrack R/T tires.

This Road Runner is stated to be in stunning overall condition with the hand-rubbed Rallye Red paint presenting a deep and luxurious appearance. The panel fit, a noted Plymouth shortcoming, is understood to be excellent. This impressive example is one of only 2,128 Road Runner convertibles produced in 1969. The stunning condition, limited production, extensive list of options and unbeatable street prowess make this a highly desirable and collectible vehicle.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 Plymouth Road Runner
Years Produced:1968-75
Number Produced:220,644
Original List Price:$3,313 (1969 convertible)
SCM Valuation:$14,000-$18,000
Tune Up Cost:$75-$250
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Plate on inner fender, cowl or radiator support
Engine Number Location:Right side of block
Club Info:Plymouth Owners Club, P.O. Box 416, Cavalier, ND 58220; Winger, 216 12th St., Boone, IA 50036
Alternatives:Dodge Charger, Ford Torino Cobra Jet, Pontiac GTO Judge, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

The Plymouth Road Runner described here was offered without reserve at Christie’s Los Angeles Petersen Museum Auction on June 17, 2000 and sold for a high bid of $27,025, including 17.5% buyer’s premium.

The under 25-year-old “street cruisers” were hard pressed to come up with the $5,000 in the late ’60s that a fully optioned muscle car could command, especially when you consider that Dad’s new Buick had a price tag that was several hundreds of dollars less. In 1968 Plymouth unveiled a “stripper” factory hot rod, the Road Runner, that had a base price of under $3,000 and could turn close to 100 mph in the standing quarter mile. It was based on the Belvedere and was fitted with a modified 383 V8, four on the floor and heavy-duty suspension. Named after the Warner Brothers cartoon character, Road Runner, and with numerous decals and its distinctive “beep-beep” horn, Plymouth sold almost 50,000 units in the first year.

The field became a little more crowded the following year as the Dodge Charger and Super Bee, Ford Torino Super Jet and Pontiac GTO Judge (a name taken from the TV show “Laugh In”) attempted to gain a foothold in the lower-end performance market. The popularity of the Road Runner continued, however, and a total of 84,420 left dealers’ showrooms. A convertible with a base price of $3,313 was added, along with some new luxury options. A new “440 Six-Pack” engine with three two-barrel carburetors, which offered 390 hp, joined the previously available Hemi. (The 440-6 engine option cost $250, the 426 Hemi $813.)

Only 2,128 Road Runner convertibles were built in 1969. Of those, just ten (and only four coupled with a 4-speed) had the “Street Hemi” option. While Wile E. Coyote never caught the Road Runner, the price of gas, the cost of insurance and governmental regulations did, bringing production to a halt in the mid ’70s after a dismal series of overstyled, underpowered cars in the ’71-’75 period.

Road Runner convertibles with the Hemi or 440 engine pushed the $100K mark ten years ago, but the muscle car market has gone through some wild price fluctuations since. After a dramatic dip in the early ’90s, major dollars have been returning slowly but consistently to this market.

Like other Plymouths of this era, the Road Runner was notorious for questionable build quality. They are easily faked visually by adding decals and trim to a Belvedere or Satellite. Given that this was an authentic car, its price should be considered a bargain, as we’ve seen Road Runner coupes in similar condition bring over $20,000 at auction recently. While cars with base 383 engines will never command the market attention and dollars that the 440- and 426-equipped cars will, nonetheless they are blue-chip muscle car collectibles, and should only increase in value.—Carl Bomstead

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